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J Med Screen. 1995;2(3):133-9.

Genetic and environmental influences on growth.

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Department of Public Health Medicine, UMDS St Thomas's Campus, London, United Kingdom.



To provide an overview of the factors associated with growth in primary school children in England and Scotland and to provide information about the secular trend of growth in the last 20 years.


Representative English and Scottish samples and an English inner city sample.


The study had a mixed longitudinal design from 1972 to 1994. Between 8000 and 10,000 children participated in each survey. Height was measured in at least 95% of the children in most surveys, and 75% to 85% of parents provided information about family background. Main results are based on published information. Multiple regression was used for most of the analyses.


Parents' height, child's birth weight, mother's age at child's delivery, ethnic background and, in white children, family size are the only factors markedly associated with height. Variables that have traditionally been used to assess the possible effect of social conditions were generally not associated with height. The height increase was more marked in Scotland than England over the period 1972 to 1990, and the differences in height of children in the two countries is now minimal.


Most factors cannot be neatly classified as purely genetic or environmental, but seem to indicate that genes are relatively more important. Social factors usually assessed in growth studies do not have an important effect on growth. The marked increase of height over time indicates that the environment and social conditions have allowed children to grow taller. Sibship size is the only factor that was shown to be related to the secular trend in growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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